Research | Informatics

A joint effort to boost information security

The Department of Informatics cooperates with Simula Research Laboratory to increase data security in Norway. The partnership will materialize in a new company called Simula@UiB.

Portrait of Kjell Jørgen Hole and Øyvind Ytrehus
AMPING UP SECURITY: Professors Kjell Jørgen Hole and Øyvind Ytrehus.
Walter Wehus

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Simula@UiB, a new research center in Bergen, opens Thursday, April 7. The researchers will work on Information Theory, Cryptography and Computer Security.

The Norwegian minister of Transportation and Communications, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, will be opening the center, which is a collaboration between the University of Bergen and Simula Research Laboratory in Oslo.

More research needed on computer security

In 2011, on behalf of the Research Council of Norway, an international panel of experts evaluated Norwegian research on Information and Computer Technology (ICT). The Department of Informatics at UiB rated best in the country, with two reseach groups getting top grades.

The report also concluded that more research on Information Security was needed in Norway.

– I think politicians see that this is a special field in many ways. Many types of technology are available to buy, but when it comes to safety, we want to have national competence. After Edward Snowden´s disclosures, where it was suggested that software manufacturers are forced to leave government backdoors in their systems, we cannot simply rely on the equipment that we buy from others, says Kjell Jørgen Hole.

Together with Øyvind Ytrehus, he is responsible for the new research center Simula@UiB. They are both professors at the Department of Informatics.

Corporation mobilizes funds

The Department of Informatics has collaborated with Simula Research Laboratory in Oslo on research on information and communication security since 2013. At the end of 2015 the university board agreed to create an independent research center in the form of a corporation.

– The Research Council's evaluation says that there must be more research and education on information security in Norway. The challenge is to raise funds for this, and there is an advantage in being a corporation, says Øyvind Ytrehus.

Simula@UiB has already obtained 5 million NOK in annual funding from the Ministry of Transport and Communications

Simula Research Laboratory itself wanted to have a closer cooperation with the University of Bergen in order to invest more in ICT security.

– ICT security is of great social importance, and it is a field not already covered by research conducted at Simula at Fornebu. The relevant academics at the University of Bergen are the best in Norway, and are therefore an optimal partner for us, says Professor Aslak Tveito, head of Simula Research Laboratory.

Neglected field of research in Norway

Hole and Ytrehus have worked together since the 1980s, and they are both code theorists. The research area might seem exotic, but the emergence of information technology has made it extremely useful in daily life.

– Computer Language must be as clear as possible to avoid any mistakes. The field has been around since the late 1940s, it is technology that everyone uses but few people know about, says Hole.

The new research center will deal with information theory, cryptography and computer security (see fact box).

– This field has been neglected within Norwegian research funding, so there is far too little research on this in Norway. Had we not been able to established this center, The University of Bergen would be ere in danger of not being able to keep cryptography research alive. Now we have a new generation of scientists in place to build on our activity, said Hole.

Scientists cannot work alone anymore

ICT environments at UiB are celebrated as being the best, but what are they doing right? Hole and Ytrehus think it is about creating a good environment and a culture where scientists work in teams.

– While other computer science departments have recruited processors with a broad knowledge base to cover all fields of teaching, we have had a tradition of appointing people who can fit into a specific research group. In the past, one could work by themselves with paper and pencil, but some of the issues we work with now are very broad and require so much technological expertise that we need to work in teams, said Hole.

This is another reason to partner with Simula, that has a lot of technological expertise and can help operate the expensive technology necessary to conduct the research.

– We want our research to be a tool for creating good candidates. We want to continue to publish in good channels, but in practice we will contribute to increasing data security in Norway, says Ytrehus.